little bits
change in the weather

whacking wool

P1050425 Is "whacking" a technical term?  or "thwacking"?

Are you a wool whacker?  Or.. do you coddle your washed skeins, handling them gently as you hang them up to dry? Do you wash your skeins by hand to set them, or  put them in the washing machine? 

I've been giving these questions a bit of thought lately.  Somewhere, in the back of my mind, is that article from Spin Off last year by Judith MacKenzie McCuin*, where she suggests using a toilet plunger while washing handspun yarn to set the twist.  It had sounded rather harsh to me.  But, that was before I met her and found her to be a very reasonable person.  Keeping this in mind and still not sold on the plunger idea (mine is relegated to plumbing only), I've begun whacking my woolen yarn.  After a not so gentle wash in scalding hot water with a bit of shampoo, I rinse, again in hot, hot water.  Then, I toss it into the washer on the 'spin only' cycle.  This saves hours and hours on the drying.  Then comes the whacking, or the setting of the twist.  My basement has a metal column, a lally column, in the middle of the room.  If I remember correctly, it was once covered in some sort of red carpet, probably shag if it was the match for the rest of the house when it became mine.  Twenty years ago, I striped it off (delivered it to the dump) and scraped the column, never getting around to painting or covering it.  Today it is my whacking pole.  Not only do I find that the yarn does seem to even out from the mistreatment, but I find it rather satisfying.  Who'd 'a thought?

I'm not suggesting that this treatment should be used for everything.. it most certainly should not.  These days, I'm collecting tools.  This is a good one.


This brings the total number of skeins I've spun and whacked for the Rhinebeck Sweater to four, just over a pound and nearly 800 yards.  It is heavy stuff.  Spinning as I go has been fun and a treat for my hands.  All the changes in hand motions have kept my wrist from getting too sore.  Even the knitted pattern was easy to switch out.  Rows 1&2, the k2, p2 rows, were knitted English. Rows 3&4 were stockinette, and knitted Continental.     

Now, for the fun part.  This is what I found in my button box.  I love the larger buttons.  They look blue with the sky reflecting in them this morning.  Gorgeous day.  They are a dark brown, nearly the color of the darkest brown in the yarn, with light brown dashes.  They'd be a strong statement.  The smaller pewter buttons mimic the stitch pattern and are sized well for the sweater.  They are bright against the dark wool.


hmmmm..... ?

*Summer 2007  on wet finishing yarn


Only occasionally do I whack. I do full however, but without a plunger - I spin semi-woolen mostly (carded prep, worsted spinn technique) and then scrunch and manipulate the skeins in the hot water a lot, plus lifting them into the cold air and back into the hot water 5 or 6 times. No science or real knowledge involved, mostly just following instinct.

I "whack" my yarn too on my bathroom counter. During the warm months I put a thick bath towel on the deck banister and do it there. Two or three times on each end of the skein. It is usually preceded with squeezing excess water out of the skeins by rolling them up in a towel and stepping on it. Then I swing it over my head like a helicopter blade to pull out the rest as needed. Of course the latter is done outside. I've never done the plunger method, though Margene has and blogged about it too. Love your sweater. I wonder which buttons you'll choose? :-)

Good timing! I just finished up some spinning for a lady who was an international teacher and need to bath the yarn. I'll whack it when I'm done and that should be that.

After winding the 4 skeins on the Niddy I'm also really, really, really wanting one of your skein winders. Soon.... just gotta get a few more $$ saved but I'm sooo tired of the Niddy.

I love whacking my wool.

I love saying that, too. So obscene.

But really, I do thwack mine against the tiled wall in my bathroom (after washing the skeins in the bathroom sink & squeezing them out). I hang them looped over the knob on our towel rack, weighted by a hanger either in the bathroom, or, if it's sunny and I am home for the day so I won't forget them, on our deck off a deck chair.

I whack 'em too!

Not that you asked, but ... Depending on when you think you'll wear the sweater (everyday workhorse, special occasions), I think the pewter buttons will be the easier ones to live with in the long run. Happily, you can't go wrong. Enjoy choosing.

Yep - I'm a whacker as well. I think it helps soften and even out the yarn after a wet finish.

Judith specifically uses the whacking when finishing woolen-spun yarns and when dealing with exotic fibers like qiviut, yak, bison, camel. Her procedure is the very hot soapy water (with plunger), then into ice cold rinse, back into hot, back into cold. With the exotics, this does full the yarn and make it more cohesive. Now, she has changed her tune in the past few years when it comes to worsted yarns....she didn't used to treat those so harshly but said in the class at Rhinebeck that she now does. There just isn't as much of a difference in the finished yarn! I never think to put my washed yarns in the washing machine to spin...I just take them outside and whirl them madly around over my head, further convincing the neighbors of my lack of sanity! Anyway, I think whack the softer, woolen-type yarns, but not anything worsted.

I need to spin more so I can whack stuff. It sounds very therapeutic. And MAN, I want your buttons!

I read the article too and find it does finish a yarn nicely. It's fun to whack it about and have a beautiful yarn in the end.

Holy cow! You should all be arrested by the wool police for fiber abuse. I've treated all my skeins with TLC. You mean I'm missing something????? Is it possible that fiber has a secret sadistic side?? Maybe I'll give it a try .... to a small skein .... just in case ....

I've been "whacking" my yarn since seeing Judith's video on exotic fibers (a number of years ago). After squeezing out excess moisture by wrapping the skein in a beach towel and 'dancing' on it, I pick up the skein at one of the ties and wack it against the deck railing or the side of the house. I move to the next tie, whack again, doing this until I have held the skein at each of the ties for a whack.

It does seem to even out the twist and cause the fibers to move into their best resting place.

Your sweater is looking good!

I whack against my tub wall ...

Great post!

I first whacked years ago when I started spinning my really works well to make the yarn bloom....and yes, there is something very pleasing about a good wet thwack of the wool! (don't have a clue why!)

I don't think I would whack a worsted, but I may be missing something here...

Woven silk fabric often is stiff after washing and pressing, and will need similar thwacking or whapping to soften it.

I whack away - really helps angora yarns. And I love that you have a whacking pole.

I read the article about the toilet plunger treatment, too, and thought I just could not bring myself to do it, nor have I ever whacked. However, I do throw my skeins into hot water with Eucalan and mush them around a bit before leaving them to their half hour soak. I also use my washing machine on a regular basis, always being sure that I have turned the water off before running the spin cycle. Somehow I cannot imagine myself spinning the yarn over my head when I have a perfectly good mechanical centrifuge in the laundry room. ;-) Might try whacking sometime, though. K just installed a big lally column under the deck...

I've used the washer to soak and spin out my skeins and have whacked my yarn for decades.

I was surprised that so many didn't.

I whack against the side of the tub enclosure. I am going to get a plunger dedicated to yarn, because I think that the tub whacking isn't enough.

For everything I spin I do a hot soak with Dawn detergent, hot rinse, spin cycle of the washing machine, and then at least 4 good thwacks against a very sturdy door jam rotating after each thwack. Hang to dry. I don't weight the hanging skeins.

Okay, I'm weighing in a little late on this, but I do whack my yarn. And in our SOAR class where there was no plunger to use (well there was, but it was the bathroom plunger of the hotel which would have been pretty gross) Judith used a bar of soap and rubbed the yarn really hard against it before dunking it in and out of the water.

After I abuse and whack mine I stick it in the microwave for a couple of minutes. Makes it dry faster and plumps it up nicely (this is for woolen spun yarns, of course. For worsted I just do a few hard whacks and that's it).

I'm a whacker/thwacker. I beat the crap outta my yarn every time - and it is very satisfying. ;o)

Your Rhinebeck sweater is going to be gorgeous!

This whole whacking thing sounds great. Can i use a human to whack! Lol. Judy i love the wool and the stitch pattern on the whacking wool swrater pic. It looks like a greige color. See you in to get that stitch pattern then. Hugs good luck next weekend!

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